Let me start this review by saying that Justine Davis is one of my favorite authors. I absolutely love her Trinity Street West mini-series (and wish she would revisit it) and her books Out of the Dark and The Morning Side of Dawn are probably two of the best series romances novels I've ever read. Nearly all of her series romances are on my keeper shelf. I've come to expect great heroes, wonderful heroines, beautiful prose and an intriguing plot from this author. I was very disappointed to discover that in her new book, One Of These Nights, I didn't get any of that.
Ian Gamble is a so-called nerdy, absent-minded inventor (I'll get to why I say so-called in a bit). At work on a super-secret project that apparently many people are willing to steal and possibly kill for, his boss at Redstone Inc not only worries about the invention's safekeeping, but that Ian could get hurt in the process. So, Ian's boss hires Samantha Beckett, who also works for RI as a corporate security guard, to protect Ian and make sure he and his project remain safe. However, since Ian refuses to have a bodyguard - not because he can take care of himself, but because he's a fussbudget who thinks a bodyguard will distract him from his work - Samantha arranges to buy the house next door and moves in so she can keep a close eye on him. Ian, of course, doesn't know Samantha's his bodyguard, he just thinks she's his beautiful next door neighbor. Ian is attracted to Samantha, but believes she could never be interested in a nerdy guy like him. This leads to the main problem with his book.
Ian Gamble has to be one of the most whiny, annoying and sometimes bratty heroes I've ever had the displeasure to read about. Throughout the book he goes on and on about how he's so different from everyone else and how the world just doesn't understand him. He believes himself to be an introverted nerdy wimp. The problem is, Ian has absolutely no reason to believe that. People like and respect him and women find him attractive. He has a great job and his boss constantly showers him with praise. His parents, who are world travelers, adore Ian just the way he is, even if they sometimes don't understand him. So why the pity party? Why is Ian constantly feeling sorry for himself? There seemed to be no reason for it, at least none communicated to the reader. It would be different if he had been treated badly by people (there is a hint of it, but only a hint, later in the book), if his parents rejected and refused to accept him, if people around him treated him like the freak he saw himself as, but they don't. Therefore, his constant whining (he actually does realize he's whining late in the book - but it doesn't stop him from continuing to do it) not only made no sense, it wore thin very quickly.
As for Samantha, she fares slightly better than Ian. She's not annoying or whining or even unlikable. But there isn't too much to her either. She's beautiful, good at her job, can't cook, and is devoted to her handicapped brother Billy (a totally unecessary subplot that only added more padding to a book that was heavily padded already). But beyond that, I can't really say much else about her. She mostly existed to save Ian's life a couple of times and make him feel better about himself. But she didn't exist as a fully fleshed out, real person on her own. But even with the few attributes I knew about her, I wondered why a woman with all that going for her would give a whiner like Ian the time of day, especially with some of the stuff he pulls later in the book.
For example, he and Samantha have barely gotten to know each other and there is an attraction they have started to acknowledge, despite the fact that there isn't even a hint of chemistry between them. Ian accidentally finds out that Samantha is a bodyguard and he feels utterly betrayed. He goes on and on, calling her a liar to her face and to anyone else who'll listen. Then, we get more of the pity party in which he laments that a woman like her could never want a guy like him. Samanatha apologizes several times, but Ian's response is to be a petulant brat and give her the cold shoulder.
But I really realized how much I disliked Ian when, after they make up and he and Samantha have sex (which came out of left field and was out of place at the point in the novel in which it happened), things get dangerous and she shows concern for a fellow co-worker's life. Ian immediately jumps to the conclusion that she must be in love with this guy and that she only slept with him because she couldn't have the man she really wanted. Once again believing she's a liar and that she's betrayed him, Ian asks Samantha why she slept with him. At that point, I wished the murderous villian had burst in and put Ian (and me) out of my misery.
The plot is a problem in itself. There really isn't much of one. Yes, we know that Ian is working on this amazing invention (that wasn't explained clearly enough for my satisfaction) and that someone is willing to kill to get it. But there is no real urgency, no real sense of danger. Part of that is because of the slow pace. The suspense sub-plot is barely mentioned in the first part of the book. Instead we get pages and pages and pages of pointless, tedious dialogue between Ian and Samantha, or scenes where Samantha thinks or talks about her brother Billy...or scenes where Ian talks with one of his co-workers about not much of anything. And while much is made of Rand, an agent who looks enough like Samantha to be her twin brother, it's a thread left hanging, which also happens with a couple of minor sub-plots in the story. It wasn't long before I got the feeling that all this chatter and various plot points were designed not to actually move the story along or deepen character, but to eat up space and set up additional stories.
Eventually, though, the plot does move ahead and someone does try to kill Ian, but it happens "off-screen" and is barely mentioned for some time. A red herring is thrown in but it's so heavy handed and mentioned so often that the reader knows that this is not the person responsible. And, after a few more attacks, when we do ultimately find out who is behind it all (and only because of the villian's stupidity, not due to any investigative work on the heroine's part), the person's motivation was utterly ridiculous, so much so that I laughed out loud, probably not the response the author wanted.
All in all, there is absolutely nothing to recommend One of These Nights. Despite how much I disliked this book, I still consider Justine Davis to be an incredibly talented author and I'll be certain to check out her next effort. But for now, I'll have to go to my keeper shelf and pick up one of her early books to remind myself what great work she is capable of producing.
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